2.1 Demonstrate knowledge of the typical IT project life cycle and its application to IT projects.
Your decision to take the CompTIA IT Project+ exam is an
important step in your IT career. Certification is becoming more
important for project managers, and many
This chapter will provide you with a high level overview of project management and how it fits into the bigger scheme of an IT operation.
What makes a new assignment a project? How do you know if you are working on a project? What distinguishes a project from an ongoing operational activity? Both new project managers and team
work effort that delivers an
product or service. A project always has a designated start and finish ”thus it is temporary. A project has clearly defined and measurable goals, which are used to determine project completion and success. A project
The word service is tricky in this definition because, obviously, there is a difference between ongoing service (operations) and a one-time or specified period of time service (project). Providing janitorial services on contract is operations; providing contract JAVA coders for 18 months to work on an IT project (providing programming services) is a project .
Another project management
Let s take a closer look at the criteria that defines a project.
A project is typically undertaken to meet a specific business objective.
It involves doing something new, which means that the end result should be a unique product or service. These products may be marketed to external
A project is always temporary. In addition to a unique end result, it has a defined start and a defined finish.
Projects can vary in length from a few weeks to several
A project must begin with a clear goal and stakeholders.
A project starts when the goal is clearly defined and the appropriate stakeholders have provided approval. A project ends when those goals have been met. A project can also end by being
With this information under our belts, let s take a look at some IT scenarios to determine whether they are projects or an ongoing operations.
The activities associated with an IT project cross the entire
For example, if you were building a
Setting up a vineyard and winery? Again, the scientific basis behind today s wineries is completely enveloped in the things that IT can offer ”any great winery would also have a great facility for ascertaining when those grapes are precisely ready for the crush.
You would probably agree that you could come up with very few projects that do not in some way involve aspects of IT.
While an IT project can and should closely follow the regimen of the project management guidelines PMI set, how closely you follow that regimen, of course, depends on the complexity of the project before you. All of the characteristics of any well-managed project, no matter how large or small, are embodied within the
Guide to the PMBOK
Let s take a minute to discuss some of the different IT projects you may find before you.
When working on a software development project, not only must you follow
When we say
You might, for example, be moving into a new building with virtually no infrastructure ” your project is to come up with the design and deployment of that infrastructure. Or, you may have projects in which you rewire the building, upgrade the switches and routers, or upgrade the WAN connectivity you have between sites. All of these kinds of projects involve the infrastructure.
The primary room where most of the cabling terminates, typically called the datacenter (see the following), is usually referred to as the Main Data Facility (MDF) . Wiring then flows from the MDF to switchgear and routers in other closets within your campus or building. These other closets are called Intermediate Data Facilities (IDF) . A building may have many IDF closets spread throughout but generally speaking there is only one MDF per building.
The datacenter is the place where the servers, mid-range computers, mainframes, large tapebackup devices, and telephony equipment such as Post Branch Exchanges (PBXs ” telephone switchgear) live. The WAN connections coming into a building, be they T1 Frame Relay, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM ” a WAN protocol), Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN ” a telecommunications protocol), or other are demarcated at the datacenter (MDF) location. As a general rule, the datacenter and
Datacenters include elements such as a raised floor (for air-conditioning airflow under the servers as opposed to above), commercial quality power- and air-conditioning units, security systems for secure entry into the datacenter, uninterruptible power
A datacenter project might involve installing a datacenter in a new building, replacing old power- or air-conditioning equipment, adding server racks to accommodate new servers, or upgrading the power distribution units (PDUs) that provide breakers and power for different systems. Note that a datacenter project isn t
With the exception of regular file servers, which store
It s not unreasonable to expect that your telephony systems might need to interact with a server system. For example, perhaps you have a project to install some call-routing software that handles call-center traffic, making sure that customer calls are
Generally speaking, most system deployments are going to require, at a minimum, server(s), the network operating system (NOS) to run on them, any required software applications, network connections, and testing. A system may be deployed across several campuses, greatly increasing the complexity and requirements of the project.
Another unique IT project is the installation of a
Storage Area Network (SAN)
. This installation is specialized and may involve fiber-channel switches, fiber-
The largest and most complex of IT projects centers on the installation of
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
software such as that
ERP rollouts generally require massive server power, coupled with large-scale enterprise databases such as Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server. Additionally, because an ERP rollout can create diversity of roles ”including the implementation of a portal ”no one individual can know it all about the deployment. Many different business functions must be involved, requiring the participation of several different managers and stakeholders, encompassing the notion of matrix management of a project.
When we talk about matrix management ”the notion that you re deriving workers from various departments and thus you and their supervisor must jointly manage their time ”you should keep in mind that an ERP rollout probably represents most fully the notion of matrix management within the realm of IT projects.
Some systems can be
The same is true of many systems within industry; electronic
IT projects rely on expertise, process, and communication in order to be successful. For all IT projects you put together the necessary hardware and software components,
The key to understanding IT projects is to think about the process of getting from point A to point B and the
Finally, it s important that IT project
IT project managers have a difficult job. They must fit into a variety of molds in order to fully comprehend the project and to bring it in on time and under budget. Following are some of the hats that an IT project manager wears:
Project manager (PM)
project manager (PM)
it is your primary responsibility to
Business analyst (BA)
While the business unit may donate a Subject Matter Expert (SME) or two to help you flesh out the project s requirements, as the
business analyst (BA)
you must have some understanding of what the business entity does. You must have a robust
Systems analyst (SA) In larger projects, the systems analyst (SA) function may well wind up being handled by another person, but you still must have a solid grasp of systems analysis and design techniques (see sidebar Understanding SDLC, Systems Analysis, and Business Processes ). In smaller projects, the SA is also the BA.
Budget analyst As a budget analyst , you also have to keep track of the project s budget. Generally you re given a specific pot of money with which to accomplish your goals and you will have some heavy explaining to do if you go over budget.
IT PMs must also understand the legal, ethical, and regulatory
IT PMs, while not necessarily heavily technological, must have a modicum of understanding of most things having to do with IT. You can t be in the middle of a meeting with the network manager, for example, and not know the difference between a switch and a router. All the network manager will have to do is step up to a whiteboard and draw a few diagrams and you ll be completely snowed! It s key that you familiarize yourself with all elements of IT related to your project, at least at a conversational level. This is a large thing to say and we re
Visionary and strategist This function is tightly coupled with technologist. You have to read up on the latest trends in IT. For example, you may not want to recommend a fat client/server system when browser-based technologies are all the rage and your new system would benefit from a thin client. That being said, you also don t want to put your project out on the bleeding edge utilizing unproven new technology.
The most important job of all is to be a precise and thorough communicator. You ll translate statements from one
Time manager IT PMs must keep their finger on the pulse of all of the project s activities and when there is a task slow-down, find out why. The PM has the clock running against him or her.
Team builder The IT PM must able to manage a highly diversified team of people with significantly different skill sets in order to achieve the project goals. You ll have project teams that have programmers, networking professionals, server administrators, security analysts, web page designers, and a potential host of other technological folks on your team. Getting these people to relate to one another and to work as a well-oiled team can be very challenging.
Clearly, the IT PM has a broad role, one that is crucial and sometimes unpopular. It s
While the IT Project+ test doesn t test you on your knowledge of the software development life cycle (SDLC) , when you re working with software development teams you re going to have to make sure that you have a solid understanding of it. It ll be of great benefit to you to understand how SDLC maps to the PMI process groups so that you manage your project according to solid project management standards, while being able to recognize what SDLC phase your software development is in at any given time. The two do not precisely correlate, but they are similar enough that you ll be able to precisely manage your project and keep your coders happy at the same time.
We strongly suggest that you consider taking a course in systems analysis and design so that you fully augment your understanding of project management with the essential design elements of a technological system. In a systems analysis and design class you ll learn how
Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs)
, context diagrams,
Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERDs),
and other outputs will assist you in
It s also important to note that in the initial business request and requirement-gathering phases of your project, you
try to apply any given technology as a solution to the request. Instead, your focus should be on the
. If you understand the order of flows that users go through to accomplish their tasks, you ll find that the technology will logically
Finally, by paying attention to the business process first, you may find areas where the process can be changed in some way to simplify it, or reduce the complexity of the technologies you re going to introduce. This is called business process re-engineering (BPR) and is often the first thing a systems analyst will recommend prior to applying any technology.
While developers know about and understand the SDLC, they don t get it when it comes to project management. So, the trick is to translate where you are in the SDLC into the PMI process groups so that you can manage the project utilizing consistent methodologies that have been highly refined and are well
As an IT PM, you ll deal with a wide variety of people. When speaking with executives, you ll have to relate to them on their level so you put on your negotiator or your businessperson hat, in order to get your point across. Likewise, when you talk to a software developer, you will rely on your technical skills.With the executive, you probably won t use heavily technical language or computer acronyms. With the software developer, he or she probably won t have much tolerance for listening to budget dialog. The point is that you put on the appropriate hat for the person that you re dealing with. So the IT PM must get into the habit of being able to switch communication hats very quickly in order to accurately
Try to make your language as clear as possible for the person you re dealing with. Avoid acronyms unless they re likely to be well-understood by the person or group you re talking to.
The IT Project+ exam doesn t actually test you directly on these elements, but you ll find a certain indirect flavor in the questions regarding the different hats that the IT PM wears. When a question
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